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Memorial Day in Israel

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Naomi Amely, whose husband was killed in action in the Sinai campaign of 1956, received a blazing torch from President Chaim Herzog at the Western Wall Monday night, officially opening Memorial Day, a day of solemn remembrance of the nearly 10,000 men and women who have fallen in battle since the State of Israel was founded in 1948.

Herzog, addressing the crowd gathered at the site, said the entire nation shared in the feelings of grievous loss of young lives. “We reach our hand to the bereaved families. We should deserve the price we paid for our freedom and independence,” he said.

Memorial Day was ushered in Monday night with the wail of sirens all over Israel. Sirens sounded again at 11 a.m. Tuesday calling a halt to all activity for a minute of silence in memory of the country’s war dead. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Memorial Day was brought to an official close with the sound of sirens and a new torch-lighting ceremony on Mt. Herzl, where 3,550 war dead are buried, marking the start of Independence Day to be celebrated Wednesday, the 38th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

Memorial Day ceremonies were held at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery and at military cemeteries and memorial sites all over the country. Speaking on Mt. Herzl, Premier Shimon Peres said: “The fallen gave our people the taste of revival, they gave this country the taste of a homeland, they gave us full independence.” Addressing the bereaved families, he said that Israel is trying to “strengthen the peace in the south, decrease the tension in the north and propose peace in the east.” He expressed hope that Israel will never lack the wisdom “to be just and to seek peace.”

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir spoke at the Mt. of Olives cemetery at the mass grave for Israeli soldiers killed in battle there in the War of Independence in 1948. He said the Arab countries must recognize that Jews will live in Israel forever.

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